Saturday, January 31, 2015

Children's Books Reveal Life's Truths

Are you surprised, seriously?! All my best learning was while reading. Life lessons happened to my favorite characters and knowing they were going through what I was, is why I still love books today.

via Reader's Nook

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Oy! Did you miss me? While I've been gone... reading has happened. Finding time to write up the reviews means shifting priorities and my daughter is turning TWENTY-ONE so that requires planning... lots and lots of planning involving chocolate cake and Nightmare Before Christmas ornaments on black miniature Christmas trees. Oh yeah and steampunk outfits. Woohoo. All the fun happens here.

However, since reading the Holiday anthology I was in the mood for more Rainbow Rowell words. My daughter was reading Fangirl for the first time, and since I've reread that novel already -- I guess it was time to revisit the darlings Eleanor and Park. These two might seem like your stereotypical love birds but when you pair them with the honesty and raw emotion that comes in the forms of quips and glimpses into a past era that takes one back to when being young and in love didn't necessarily mean you were stupid or naive, true love conquers all feels a bit more plausible than other YA romances set in high school.

  • TITLE: Eleanor & Park 
  • AUTHOR(S): Rainbow Rowell 
  • SERIES: Stand Alone
  • PUB INFO: St. Martin's Press on 2/26/2013
  • ACQUIRED HOW? Purchased hardcover on Amazon, Received Special Signed Edition at Christmas, Purchased Kindle edition on Amazon
  • BOOK RATING: Going Bananas!

QUOTE ME: This book defies cliche and romantic entanglements. Loving is the easy part for Eleanor and Park. Figuring out how to love and show it is a whole 'nother set of problems. Intolerance, racism, typical high school hierarchies and family dynamics that are not what you think they are and a bit of mystery to the very end; drive this beyond YA romance fare and into heartbreakingly earnest, sweet, real, and just overall bittersweet but achingly lovely. Such perfection in every sentence!

What propels Rainbow's stories beyond what you expect is the surprisingly easy way she makes you laugh even as you realize Eleanor's circumstances are truly horrifying. Life doesn't stop for feelings or teen romance or slow down into the slow-mo close-ups that allows you to catch your breath and break down the moment. Realizations happen in a flash, sometimes so quick you have to run... and laugh... and discover that what we originally thought was wrong. We misjudged people and that's all in the space of maybe one chapter. Yeah... seriously, Eleanor & Park happens in real-time with surprisingly brutal pacing that makes it a fast read, but much like an emotional roller-coaster of fear - anger - sad - happy - empathy - shock - cheer - that switches up every other sentence or two. Yep. That quick.

So read fast, but don't miss a word in your haste, okay?! And then re-read because inevitably, blinking through the tears isn't conducive to a thorough read.

Monday, January 19, 2015

INFP Personality... Hmmm?!

So yeah, my facebook feed is full of this 16 Personalities Test. I believe it might be an abbreviated version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test. Possibly.

Interestingly enough, I used to remember what type I was having taken the Myers-Briggs twice... the full thing mediated by a psychologist. Both times, I was in college... the first and second time I attended. Each time I was so close to the middle, that I had to choose which description felt more like me. Weirdly, I always have felt like an outsider because I am way too positive and happy and willing to look at the good in people and situations that hardly no one I knew could relate. It was -- is -- frustrating.

Tonight, I thought why not... why not take this personality quiz on facebook and see what exactly I'd get. Not unlike my past results, I again got the rare type and totally relate to the description. Hmmm?! What about you all? Any of you feel like you don't change much over the years, personality-wise and yet feel nothing like you did when you took the test last?

INFP Personality according to THIS SITE:

INFP personalities are true idealists, always looking for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events, searching for ways to make things better. While they may be perceived as calm, reserved, or even shy, INFPs have an inner flame and passion that can truly shine. Comprising just 4% of the population, the risk of feeling misunderstood is unfortunately high for the INFP personality type - but when they find like-minded people to spend their time with, the harmony they feel will be a fountain of joy and inspiration.
Being a part of the Diplomat (NF) personality group, INFPs are guided by their principles, rather than by logic (Analysts), excitement (Explorers), or practicality (Sentinels). When deciding how to move forward, they will look to honor, beauty, morality and virtue - INFPs are led by the purity of their intent, not rewards and punishments. People who share the INFP personality type are proud of this quality, and rightly so, but not everyone understands the drive behind these feelings, and it can lead to isolation.
All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost.

J. R. R. Tolkien


At their best, these qualities enable INFPs to communicate deeply with others, easily speaking in metaphors and parables, and understanding and creating symbols to share their ideas. The strength of this intuitive communication style lends itself well to creative works, and it comes as no surprise that many famous INFPs are poets, writers and actors. Understanding themselves and their place in the world is important to INFPs, and they explore these ideas by projecting themselves into their work.
INFPs have a talent for self-expression, revealing their beauty and their secrets through metaphors and fictional characters.
INFPs’ ability with language doesn’t stop with their native tongue, either - as with most people who share the Diplomat personality types, they are considered gifted when it comes to learning a second (or third!) language. Their gift for communication also lends itself well to INFPs’ desire for harmony, a recurring theme with Diplomats, and helps them to move forward as they find their calling.


Unlike their Extraverted cousins though, INFPs will focus their attention on just a few people, a single worthy cause - spread too thinly, they’ll run out of energy, and even become dejected and overwhelmed by all the bad in the world that they can’t fix. This is a sad sight for INFPs’ friends, who will come to depend on their rosy outlook.
If they are not careful, INFPs can lose themselves in their quest for good and neglect the day-to-day upkeep that life demands. INFPs often drift into deep thought, enjoying contemplating the hypothetical and the philosophical more than any other personality type. Left unchecked, INFPs may start to lose touch, withdrawing into "hermit mode", and it can take a great deal of energy from their friends or partner to bring them back to the real world.
Luckily, like the flowers in spring, INFP’s affection, creativity, altruism and idealism will always come back, rewarding them and those they love perhaps not with logic and utility, but with a world view that inspires compassion, kindness and beauty wherever they go.
Famous INFPs:
William Shakespeare

J.R.R. Tolkien


Johnny Depp

Julia Roberts

Lisa Kudrow
Tom Hiddleston



Saturday, January 3, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Right on schedule for my second book read in 2015, although I do not think that I will be able to keep up this pace once the kiddos are back in school and I go about actively trying to get a new job (preferably by Barnes & Noble)! Oh the joys of pounding the pavement while attempting to chauffeur the kiddos everywhere they need to be.

The kitties have their wellness check-up and shots this week so they're going to just LOVE me after that visit, but what can you do? Someone has to be the villain, yeah?!

Speaking of villains, has the Lunar Chronicles got one that's ever so frighteningly mysterious. I truly loathe Queen Levana and yet... her own childhood played a huge part in shaping her into the monstrous manipulator that she is in Cinder, Scarlet and Cress. In fact, she seems downright mild in nature in comparison to her two advisors -- Thaumaturge Aimery Park and Thaumaturge Sybil Mira -- in this book, Cress.

  • TITLE: Cress 
  • AUTHOR(S): Marissa Meyer 
  • SERIES: Lunar Chronicles #3 
  • PUB INFO: Thorndike Press on 2/5/2014 
  • ACQUIRED HOW? Purchased hardcover at Walmart & Kindle edition at Amazon
  • BOOK RATING: Going Bananas!

Now it has been awhile since I last visited the Lunar Chronicles universe, however, Cress immediately sucked me back into the world and caught me up without missing a beat in the jet-fast pacing that I've come to admire from Marissa Meyer. She knows how to infuse a moment with all the little details you need to understand why things are happening while pushing the story forward without leaving you behind. I tell you that's one of her greatest strengths and what makes her a flawless storyteller in my humble estimation.

Not that after speed reading through Cinder and Scarlet had not convinced me of my NEED to read Cress and read it immediately, but I just wanted the chance to savor this story and spread out the awesomeness of Cinder and Scarlet before immersing myself back into this golden nugget of a story. So yeah, I put it off as long as I could (seriously see here for when I reviewed the first two books for Fangirlish... it's been awhile yeah?!); but I cannot anymore since Fairest is coming and I don't want to miss out on it and yet did not want to read it before I had read Cress's story. I've been told it doesn't matter when you read Fairest since it is a prequel that ends about 10 years before Cinder's story begins, but I don't know... it didn't feel right leaving Cress to collect dust until November which is when WINTER comes out! Omigosh I wish it were coming sooner!

So there you have it... I am finally reading Cress and fawning over it because it is fantastic! Easily in my top ten books of 2014 (which... should I have a blog post with that list... hmmm?)... and definitely one of my favorite fractured fairytale series. Meyer knows how the olden fairytales go and she's deftly maneuvered her characters into a sci-fi, fantastical universe where she thwarts stereotypes and cliches while creating characters who mature, grow and brilliantly present themselves as female role models that could indeed be mimicked by girls today. Cinder, Scarlet and Cress feel real despite their world being fictional and in chaos. They are revolutionaries raging against the societal wrongs they face and their willingness to fight in the impending war brings into focus the kind of leaders we need in real life. These ladies do battle with their hearts on their sleeves and we love them for it.

Cress follows in Cinder and Scarlet's wake, although in the other two books Meyer did give us a glimpse of the high-flying techie whose loyalties are in question. Is she for them or the mastermind behind a very elaborate trap to catch Cinder? Right from the start in Cress, that question is answered firmly and if you are a sucker like me, you'll rally behind Cress pretty fast. She's quite lovable with all the traits of a geeky fangirl but sharp-minded tech expert. Seriously the whole time, I had a hard time not imagining her as Felicity from Arrow. Total sucker for those kind of females.

Cress and Iko get along famously once they get past a certain Thorne in their relationship. Wolf and Cinder mature with each other not only through the training exercises they both commit to, but in the shared loss of a dear friend and the realization that Cinder's Lunar gift weighs her down like the persons she commands against their will. She too feels like she loses a part of herself when she has to use it. The fear of becoming her aunt scares her badly. Also, they all uniquely feel the same compelling need for love from people out of their reach (or so they think) and so watching especially Scarlet's transformation into a tough, wise-cracking but deliberate antagonizer of those around her truly smarts while providing a whole lot of comic relief in some very tense situations.

Trust me on this one thing -- you have to read the Lunar Chronicles to believe it.

The appearance of two new characters -- fully revealed and oh so intriguing -- will be kept a secret because I found them brilliantly interspersed in the plot development and such delightful gifts of characters to discover as the book progressed, I would hate to ruin or spoil the surprise of their introductions and unveiling bit-by-bit. Just know that you will be charmed and simultaneously weirded out by them... they are indeed that AWESOME!

QUOTE ME: Overall, Cress exceeded my expectations and I am blown away how cleverly devilish Meyer manages to make each cliffhanger of all three of these books in the Lunar Chronicles without it feeling like a forced exit or a tired tease to get readers sucked back into the story. These books could not be any more riveting and needless to say, my suspense was already code red levels even before I read Cress so imagine where I am now?!

Friday, January 2, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: My True Love Gave To Me *Twelve Holiday Stories*

Today’s the second day of 2015 and hey… helllllloooooooo readers, have I got a holiday hangover chaser for you! Need to hold onto the spirit of giving for a little longer before facing the harsh realities of winter again?! My True Love Gave To Me *Twelve Holiday Stories* includes the twelve days of Christmas with all the schmaltz, tinsel and bubbling disbelief you expect from romance, but brings you all the bleeding heart liberal doses of humanity that makes every day transform from hardened, gray and ordinary into magic, into minor miracles that while seem nothing special touches lives and offers hope where there might not otherwise be any.

That’s the beauty of Christmas! (Even when you don't call it Christmas or prefer science over religion or celebrate the many other religious holidays that come during the winter holidays.)

It shows up in every single story contained within My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins (who also contributed). If you’re worried that these cannot be read alone, as singular stories to enjoy and allow you to put this book down and come back as need be… don’t! None of the stories are connected except for the delightful way each short makes known just which day of Christmas from the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, it drew inspiration from.

  • TITLE: My True Love Gave To Me *Twelve Holiday Stories*
  • AUTHOR(S): See above gif but edited by Stephanie Perkins
  • PUB INFO: St. Martin's Press on 10/14/14
  • ACQUIRED HOW? Purchased Kindle Edition
  • BOOK RATING: Peachy Keen
As the first book of 2015 I have read completely through... I have the energy to tackle each story by itself even though there are TWELVE!!! I did have favorites but they changed even after reading the book and now I cannot decide which I like best. That should be a testament for how utterly delightful each and every one of these stories capture the holiday spirit and just ooze with character.

  Midnights by Rainbow Rowell: An utterly precious story of pining and pretenses that wraps up on a New Year’s Eve that will change forever how Mags and Noel spend it. That’s okay because spending the evening hiding outside at midnight is the last place Mags should be, because doesn’t she know this night is the night she must save Noel’s life yet again. A bit more heroically than the past New Year’s Eves that they’ve spent together since meeting on New Year’s Eve and even as you read this as if they’ve spent lifetimes of New Year’s Eves together… you’d be missing the point. Rainbow as always makes the most meaningful of things out of what is going on off-screen and the potential of what these two finally on the same page will make of future New Year’s Eve.

  The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link: A grim fairy tale initially, with prose, dearth and atmospheric cold spinning its enchanted spell so that when the reveal comes you have almost lost faith in the heat of two hearts beating as one. However, Miranda hasn’t neither has her benefactress Elspeth Honeywell. Together they face off against the Snow Queen who dares enter the fantastical realm of reality Miranda has locked her Fenny boy into. Gorgeously woven short with a hint of the joviality and dynamism of the Roaring 20’s to gild its suspension of disbelief.

  Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Peña: Truth finds a way to seep into fiction, ground it and worm its way into a romance in the littlest of ways. Shy and Haley refuse to accept the truths worming their way into their hearts this festive season and as they run from their fears, their cares, and their lies… the snow conspires against them and brings them together for a holiday season where running away doesn’t mean being so alone.

  Polaris is Where You Will Find Me by Jenny Han: This isn’t another Elf story… and yet Natalie can hope and wish that Flynn even though he isn’t human might fall in love with Santa’s adopted daughter, a human girl tired of never fitting in and surrounded by an entire population filled with pity for her. She’d like just for once to be special, to have gifts, to be something more than the girl who lives in the most magical place of all – the North Pole and yet gravitational forces and the unknown wreak havoc with the most fixed point in the universe, what makes her think she might be any different?

  It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins: Oy… but boy oh boy is North the one for Marigold! Chemistry blossoms between these two in a shared love of the Peanuts special tree they lug to an unwelcoming apartment cluttered and ridiculously stuffed already. As they navigate each other, stereotypes, a mean-spirited nosy neighbor and unanswered questions – these two find a connection that feels like more than just a holiday romance.

  Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan: A bittersweet treat, undertones of heartbreak and yet filled with the loveliest of impassioned need that drives humans to want… WANT in all caps for love. The things we will do… to love and be loved in return. And what if we are all imposters?! What then? The game never changes does it? And the lessons are all the same. Hold on tight. Just hold on tight to whomever makes you feel like you belong.

  Krampuslauf  by Holly Black: The oddity of the holidays is that it is about the only time humanity comes together in a unified belief that anything’s possible. So when you throw in three best friends who don’t know the power of three that they are, what’s a New Year's party going to turn into?! A magical evening where everyone wishes and those wishes come true. Quite a brilliantly woven modern tale for the ages without guile or poeticism unless you count the poetic justice it brings to the bully.

  What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman: Everyone has a way of dealing with those moments, times in your life where you have no freaking idea how to wiggle your way gracefully out of the awkwardness that is ensuing around you. Chaos would be welcome to the blankness or judgment in the stares around you. Yeah… Sophie Roth knows all about those. So when she willingly subjects herself to an “Oh Ned Flanders of it all” Christmas concert, running into another deluded, fed-up with the Midwestern pastoral grace of their college seemed kismet. Only she’s the one seeing Russell as she imagines he should be and not as who he is and if fate’s going to bring these two lonely hearts together, they’re going to have to really look at each other without the blinders their peers have so callously used on them.

  Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire: Getting a bunch a birds to shit on your nemesis’s mini-cooper seems a bit excess but Vaughn has a gift for making trouble and when the whole church burns down when his grand scheme goes up in a billowing mass of flames, only the preacher, Pastor Robinson, is the reason Vaughn isn’t hauled off to jail. Thank heavens though that Gracie Robinson has no inkling of the crush Vaughn harbors for her or for that matter the pastor or he might’ve not been as kind or let Vaughn perform his community service in such close proximity to Gracie. You know what they say about PK’s (Preacher’s Kids)?! With reputations at stake as well as the annual Christmas pageant, Vaughn learns just how useful his overactive imagination can be in times of crisis. If that earns him points with the lady, he’ll take that too.

  Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White: Sweetest little town you’ll ever not visit, but Christmas, CA cannot even claim city status. A “census-designated place” where as far as Maria is concerned sucks its inhabitants in and builds some invisible force field to keep them from ever leaving. You don’t know you’re a prisoner of the place until you’re bitter, dried-up and a husk of your former loving-life self. She has seen it happen too many times to count and she’s getting out! No good-looking, sweet-talking amazing chef with crack gingerbread cookies is going to convince her otherwise. She’ll just have to take him with her that’s what… of course, gotta convince him to come first too.

  Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter: Cutest play on words that title is! The heartbreak in this story is real, too close for comfort I think for a lot of us during the holidays and yet when we meet Lydia she’s determined not to give into her sob story. It’s no wonder though that as she finally opens up to allow her real self inside show and faces the tragedies of her life, that a whole town backs her up in a battle of where she truly belongs.

  The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: There are no words to express how old world Laini Taylor can make even the shortest of stories feel. As we follow Neve and learn of her fate, we too dream and wish along with her for the greatness she feels contained within herself. Courage, determination and the wonderment of what if and as she sends out her longing onto the wind it finds a presence who has needed such fierceness of character to awake it. Gods cannot be made but they can be enticed, enchanted, enraged. Neve weaves her humanity in a way that grows her into something magnificent and beyond the scope of her human body, so that when she finally meets the Dreamer – her god and savior – she steps up to him as an equal and a goddess without measure.

QUOTE ME: Every single one of these stories contain a beauty to them… a knowledge of real people who feel for the circumstances they’re imprisoned in. A diverse group of characters where I found much relatable content, even if I were not of the same ethnicity or orientation. No one likes outside forces telling them what to do, what to become, who to be, what they should be, how they should act or refusing them the simple luxury of just being… existing in the struggle of becoming who they think they want to become. In these twelve stories of struggle, growth, magic and mayhem, and yes… realism – there comes a sense of hope so pervasive that even though there’s not always a happily ever after or true love conquers all ending – there is a broad smile on my face just thinking of where these characters might be right now if they had jumped off the pages and come to life.

 Oh yeah, life is good. You just have to believe it. ☺

 | cross-posted to Fangirlish under Beth

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year's Benediction

While it is rare that I make resolutions, this year -- 2015 -- comes after some startling changes in my personal life as well as where I hang my hat. Oh yes, newsboy caps, fedoras, trilbies and a top hat... they've all moved along with 2 kiddos, 2 cats and a beta fish. Now that the heat has shriveled me up and my lungs... and we've been here long enough to change our licenses -- why shouldn't I start off the New Year with a mind and heart set to the future and the challenges, the opportunities that might come with it. I've done enough changing and adapting to last a lifetime so here I go again. Right?!

Must be something in the air, because Neil Gaiman who has some of the loveliest benedictions for New Years had mentioned he wouldn't be writing a new one for 2015 but guess he couldn't help himself this year either, because he came up with this lovely benediction that I am repeating here as a personal prayer for my family, myself and all of you.

Be kind to yourself in the year ahead.
Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It's too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.
Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.
Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them.
Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.
Definitely must make some actual resolutions if I have not already, even though I do not think I want to write them down yet. They will come though. Follow me here because times are changing and life is not meant to be wasted! I will be sharing my new year memories with you all!